Living Fearlessly with Change 2019 – 2020

Exploring Ageing, Illness and Death through Buddhist Practice and Service

A ten-month course for deepening our practice starting July 2019

PLEASE NOTE: We are now operating a waiting list for this course. You are still welcome to apply and join the waiting list.

Through realising that all beings age, experience illness and ultimately die the Buddha-to-be saw the nature of suffering in this life. Rather than be overwhelmed by this understanding, he chose to turn towards these experiences, using them as a call to wake up to the reality of life’s ever-changing nature.

This programme follows the Buddha’s lead to inquire into these themes and wake up to our lives just as they are in each moment. Offering service provides us with an opportunity for practice to move from the cushion out into the world of relationship and interdependence. We will deepen our understanding of the way we respond and react to our experiences of dukkha as it arises for ourselves and others, cultivating wise and compassionate ways of being present. In this way we will use the Buddha’s teachings to explore the particular issues that arise in caring for and supporting another as well as the deepening of practice that manifests through service.

This is a special opportunity to deepen in practice with the support of teachers and sangha, and offer service.

The course consists of:

  • Three residential retreats at the Bala Brook Retreat Centre on beautiful Dartmoor.
  • Personal meditation practice.
  • A commitment to offering service for at least 2 hours a week within the areas of ageing, illness or end-of-life care.
  • Teacher mentoring.
  • Regular contact with fellow participants and deepening sense of sangha (Buddhist community).
  • Regular material from the teachers consisting of reflections/contemplations, guided meditations and talks.
  • Monthly live video conferencing with teachers and participants, with discussion, question and answer.



ZOHAR LAVIE has been practising meditation in different traditions since 1995. This journey has taken her from the meditation cushion into exploring further ways of expressing truth and love and in 2004 she co-founded SanghaSeva. She now spends most of her time facilitating retreats that offer service as a spiritual path around the world. Since 2006 she has been teaching on silent retreats and Dharma gatherings in India, Europe and Israel.

Listen to one of Zohar Lavie's Talks from the Dharmalaya Silent retreat on 29.03.2017-: Emptiness, Self and Dependent Arising (Duration 50:33)

Zohar has worked with the elderly and physically impaired in the UK since 2003 and spends a month a year volunteering in a leprosy community in India. She has been teaching annually on Gaia House’s Living with Illness and Loss retreat.

Practising Dharma in action by offering service – An article by Zohar Lavie

Zohar will be assisted by:

NATHAN GLYDE began meditating in 1997, and teaching retreats in 2007. From continued exploration grew a deep love for meditation’s alive stillness and creative silence. Feeling the potential for all of life to play a part in awakening opened an interest to cultivate attentiveness in every experience. In 2004 this led to co-founding SanghaSeva to offer retreats combining meditation with engaged action.


Course themes

The course is an inquiry process into the groundless, uncertain nature of our experience using the areas of ageing, illness and death. We will explore the use of intention and motivation, guidelines for ethical living, Bodhicitta and the Six Perfections – generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, concentration and wisdom. The process will be supported with meditations using the breath and inquiry as the focus, the four Brahma Viharas, (equanimity, kindness, compassion, and empathetic joy), and the practice of Tonglen.

Programme Elements
Please ensure that you read all of the course information below and that you are able to fulfil all of the course criteria and commitments before applying.

Residential Retreats

3 Residential Retreats at Bala Brook Retreat Centre take place on the following dates in 2019 & 2020:

  •  9 – 14 July 2019
  • 5 – 8 December 2019
  • 5 – 10 May 2020

Bala Brook is a retreat centre in a most beautiful part of Dartmoor. Surrounded by wild flower meadows, fields and moorland, and with a gentle brook flowing through the grounds, this is a nourishing space to spend time. As Bala Brook owns the land immediately adjacent to the centre, there is plenty of space for walking meditation and being outdoors.

Rooms will be shared with one or two others, and there are a limited number of single rooms which will be allocated to those with medical conditions or according to age.

Accessibility: This venue has a limited number of rooms available for wheel-chair users.

More about accommodation.


All participants are asked to commit to offering service for at least 2 hours a week in support of those who are experiencing ageing, illness or are approaching end of life (whether it be through your current professional  role, volunteering, or caring for a relative or friend). Applicants not already offering service need to explore opportunities for engaging in voluntary work. About volunteering.

Teacher mentoring & video meetings

  • Teacher Mentoring

Participants will have at least one personal interview with a teacher on each residential retreat, as well as one personal interview with a teacher in each half of the programme (between the retreats). This will be on the telephone, Skype, or in person if possible.

Additionally each participant will have personal email contact with a teacher once a fortnight through the programme.

The personal, telephone and email interviews are offered to support each participants in their individual process and practice.

Participants will be sent weekly emails with reflections and guided meditations. Once a month a talk will be made available for participants to listen to and reflect on.

  • Live Video Conference

This will take place once a month online with the teachers and other participants. It will be an opportunity for discussion and Q&A, and will be recorded.

  • Group Meetings

All participants will have a video meeting with fellow participants twice a month in small groups to reflect on their practice and experience. Guidelines will be provided for taking part in this meeting.

Programme Costs

The total cost of participating in the programme is £820 plus Dana (a voluntary offering).

A payment plan is available to spread the cost. In addition, there are funds available to support people financially; see below for details.

Payment plan

We ask for an initial non-refundable deposit of £200 to secure your place. Following this, we are offering a payment plan to help spread the cost.

The payment plan is outlined below:

Minimum amount to be paid By date:
£200 Deposit on booking
£400 1 May 2019
£560 1 July 2019
£700 1 September 2019
£820 1 December 2019
  • Affordable options can be discussed. If preferable, it may be possible to arrange monthly payments that meet the minimum payment schedule above.
  • Bookings made from 1st May 2019 onward will require the ‘minimum payment’ amount (£400 or £560 depending on the date) as a deposit.


To avoid the need for cancellation, please ensure you are in a position to commit to the full programme before booking your place.

The minimum payment amounts are non-refundable payments. If you have paid more than the minimum payment amount at a given date, the difference will be refunded.

We ask for 70% of the fees to be paid by the start date because once the course has commenced it is not possible to join, so all places need to be allocated by that date. We appreciate your understanding.

More information about cancellation.

Financial support

There are funds available to support people financially, and individual payment plans can be worked out with people accessing financial support to ensure that payments are affordable. Please contact Rachel Davies for details by emailing

Dana donations

Following the lineage of Buddhist teachings being offered freely, this course is also offered in this spirit of generosity (Dana), and the teachers will receive only a small financial contribution from Gaia House during the 10-month course. Please bear in mind that the rate you pay covers the basic running of the course only. You will be invited to support the teachers financially by offering Dana at the end of each of the residential retreats and also at the mid-points between the retreats. We ask you to keep this voluntary cost in mind as you consider the financial requirements for the course. More information about Dana.

Terms and Conditions

Criteria for engaging with the programme

You need to have:

  • Experience of engaging with a personal meditation practice over the last year.
  • Attended one meditation retreat in the Buddhist tradition over the last 5 years.
  • At least 2 hours a week serving in either a paid or voluntary capacity, or as a carer for a family member or friend, in one of the areas of ageing, illness and death.
    • If you are not offering this service at present, you are able to commit to 2 hours of voluntary work each week in one of these areas for the duration of the programme.
    • Those not already offering service need to begin to explore opportunities for voluntary work, as this can take several months to organise.
  • Access to a computer and the internet.
    • Participants need reasonable internet access due to the online aspects of this course.
    • Full information and instructions will be given on getting set up for video conferences and online group meetings.

You need to be committed to:

  • Developing a regular meditation practice of at least 15 minutes a day (or more) at least 4 times a week.
  • Spending between 1 – 2.5 hours a week engaged in: reflecting on different aspects of a variety of themes, listening to Dharma talks (Buddhist teachings), being part of an online discussion group, being available on a Sunday, late afternoon, once a month for a live video Q&A and discussion.
  • Attending 3 residential retreats over a period of 10 months.

If you have any reservations about whether you have the experience needed to engage with this programme please contact us to discuss this.

Please be aware that participants are asked to commit to the entire course and no places will be available once it has begun. 

The Application Process

Please click here for the on-line Application form.

You can expect to receive a response within 2 weeks. If you are accepted on the course, you will be asked to pay a deposit to secure your place. Having paid a deposit, you will have the option to either agree to a payment plan, or to pay the balance in full. Please see information above about deposits, payments and cancellation for further information.


If you have any questions or concerns about applying for, or participating in this programme, please don’t hesitate to contact us. It is our intention to make this course as accessible as possible, and to serve the wider community. Please contact Rachel Davies on or 01626 335256.

Retreat Code = 19153  

C = special criteria, please read the retreat description carefully
E = experienced

Mental well-being guidelines - please click here to read before booking

Before you book, please read these guidelines about mental well-being and silent retreats:

Intensive silent meditation retreats can be very nourishing; however, as they require sustained meditation practice, they also need some stability of psychological health. If you have recently (within the past year or so) experienced significant trauma or psychiatric illness, or if you are currently experiencing acute emotional distress such as serious depression or anxiety, it may not be the best time for you to attend an intensive retreat in silence. The teachers might not be able to give you the kind of individual psychological care you need at this time. A setting with more opportunities for interpersonal engagement may be more appropriate.

  • If you are currently under the care of a mental health professional, please discuss your attendance with them. You should be in a relatively stable period of mental well-being and have adequate psychological resilience to attend an intensive silent retreat.
  • Please be prepared to offer your mental health professional's contact information to the teachers on the opening day if requested.
  • If you have any questions about this, please contact:

10 month course including 3 residential retreats at Bala Brook Retreat Centre:

  • Tuesday 9 July 2019 – Sunday 14 July 2019 (5 nights)
  • Thursday 5 December 2019 – Sunday 8 December 2019 (3 nights)
  • Tuesday 5 May 2020 – Sunday 10 May 2020 (5 nights)

Cost: £820 plus Dana

Arrival & Departure:
  • Arrive for registration between 2-5pm on the opening day.
  • Depart after 12.30pm on the final day (or 1.30pm if staying for lunch).
  • Please only make travel bookings to fit with these times.
  • These conditions apply even if you've been to Gaia House before.
Please only book if you are able to commit to the entire retreat:
  • The teachers and staff at Gaia House require this commitment in order to respect the retreat environment and minimise disruption to others.
  • We are not able to accept bookings from people who want to arrive and/or depart outside of these times.

PLEASE NOTE: We are now operating a waiting list for this course. You are still welcome to apply and join the waiting list.

To join our waiting list for this retreat, please click here to fill in the Application form.